Batman Arkham Knight Review
Batman Arkham Asylum was a revelation for Batman fans. For years we’d suffered through low quality video games: adaptations that could never really capture what it was to be Batman. Then along comes Rocksteady who gives us a game that allowed us to truly become the Dark Knight. In Arkham Asylum you became the greatest of detectives, the most skilful of martial artists, the stealthiest of ninjas. It was the definitive Batman experience, at least until Arkham City came out. With Arkham City it was more, more of everything. More combat, more predator moments, more puzzles and detective work, and all of it in an open world concrete jungle that we could soar through, dispensing justice and beatings like they were going out of style. We thought that was as good as we could get with Batman. We were wrong. Now Rocksteady has released Arkham Knight, their third and perhaps final Arkham game, and yet again they’ve created the definitive Batman experience.
A year after the destructive events of Arkham City, crime is at an all-time low with the streets being safer than ever. Of course, the peace doesn’t last. Scarecrow, threatening to detonate chemical weapons and smother the city in fear toxin, forces a mass evacuation of Gotham City. Teaming up with many of Batman’s deadliest foes, as well as the new villain the Arkham Knight, Scarecrow enacts his master plan to not only kill the Batman, but also to utterly ruin him. With the city under the control of criminals and the Knight’s army of mercenaries, Batman has to retake Gotham and save the day. Sounds simple enough, but of course things get… Complicated. This version of Scarecrow is the most brilliant, most ruthless, and most deadly version yet. The Arkham Knight knows everything about Batman and his methods, has an army of mercenaries, and holds a serious grudge. Batman himself is more human than ever, with years of heroics, the traumatic events of Arkham City, and one too many brushes with Fear Toxin taking their mental toll on him and making him both more vulnerable and more dangerous than ever.
Batman Arkham Knight is one of the darkest and grittiest Batman stories I’ve seen yet, with Batman put through the absolute wringer in a way that made the previous Arkham games seem like a warm up. There are some shocking, brutal, and surprising moments in the game and for the most part it’s an absolute thrill ride. It’s made even better with the quality of voice acting. A large number of voice actors return and put in a fantastic performance, but for me the absolute standout was Australian actor John Noble, who voices Scarecrow. His version of the villain; calculating, brilliant, terrifying, all wrapped up with a poetic turn of phrase and a deep, regal voice, is the easily the best version of Scarecrow in the Batman mythos.
Gameplay of course, retains its core pillars. Combat is as elegant as ever, with new additions to mix it up. Case in point; there are more benefits to using gadgets in combat than before, you can grab downed enemies and pull them into combos, and there are new enemy types and new forms of attack require new strategies to beat. It’s trickier than ever, but gives you a wider range of skills than ever before as well. The predator gameplay sections also have some new additions. They give you new enemies to contend with; sentry guns, surveillance drones, medics who can restore downed foes, scanners who can track you if you keep detective mode on for too long, and optic camo foes who are invisible on your detective mode. You’ve also got a new, powerful fear takedown move that allows you to ambush 3 enemies – up to 5 with upgrade – and taken them all down in quick time event once you’ve charged it up.
New to the Arkham series though is the Batmobile. It’s a key element of gameplay, almost as much as the combat or stealth sections. It’s a fast method of getting from point A to point B, there are races, car chases, puzzles, tank battles and boss fights, all from behind the wheel. I’ll be honest, I hated the Batmobile when it was first available. I felt it was horribly intrusive and utterly ridiculous. Not only were vehicle sections everywhere but the very idea of it was jarring. Batman driving a tank, an actual tank, with heavy firepower to fight off the Knight’s army of drone tanks. Lucky the Knight was thoughtful enough to have unmanned drone tanks hey? Or blowing up enemy cars and watching the thugs stagger out and crawl to safety from fiery wrecks that tumbled and burned. Slamming into a thug at full speed and watching them get blasted harmlessly aside by the Batmobile’s taser field. Shooting criminals in the head with your tank grade “riot suppressor” gun and supposedly leaving them unconscious and not dead with a broken neck and shattered skull. As I said, it was jarring to reconcile it with the idea of Batman who everyone knows doesn’t kill. Of course, once I suspended my disbelief and got used to how finicky the controls were, it became highly enjoyable. Word to the wise, you can change the driving controls in the options. Do so. The default settings make zero sense. Either way, there’s a true sense of speed and power when you’re behind the wheel of the Batmobile. You truly feel like a vigilante billionaire who’s spent a ridiculous sum on money developing the most awesome technology for the sole purpose of kicking ass.
In terms of presentation, Batman Arkham Knight looks and sounds fantastic. I’ve already written about the top notch voice acting, but it also looks a treat. Gotham is a dark and moody place. An almost perpetual rain pours down on the city where gothic and art deco design rub shoulders with neon lights and shiny new skyscrapers. The character models are all visually striking and immaculately detailed as well, with many of them undergoing a stylish new redesign. It’s a great looking game with a well realised world full of detail.
Overall Batman Arkham Knight is the definitive Batman experience and one of the definitive Batman stories. It’s the culmination of years of work from Rocksteady, the refinement of the gameplay they made so popular in the first place. New gameplay features are paired together with a dark and gritty storyline, and if this is the last Batman Arkham game developed by Rocksteady, then at least it went out on the highest of notes.
About: Simon Mawson
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